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Rivalry Week: What it means for…

Nick Saban AP

Rivalry Week is at once the best and worst of times for college football fans.

At its best, this extended weekend wrapped around the Thanksgiving holiday offers up a litany of games that mean something beyond conference or BCS implications, giving all fan bases something just as meaty and satisfying: bragging rights and pride, especially when it’s an in-state rival humbled in defeat on the opposing sideline.  At its worst, however, this weekend means that yet another college football season is quickly wrapping up, with just a handful of regular season games remaining to go along with conference championship games and bowls.

There are, though, the obvious implications beyond just bragging rights and pride.  Myriad implications, from conference races to BCS placement to the chase for the 2013 Heisman Trophy.

So, with that as the backdrop, here’s a look at the marquee matchups for Week 14 and the potential implications the outcomes of the games could/would/should have on all fronts.

No. 1 Alabama at No. 4 Auburn
“The Mother of All Iron Bowls” indeed.  The stunning turnaround by Auburn under Gus Malzahn — from 3-9, 0-8 last season to 10-1, 6-1 in 2013 — has nearly overshadowed Alabama’s quest for three straight BCS titles and four in five years .  Who would’ve thought, prior to September, that this year’s version of the Iron Bowl would carry more conference and national weight than Alabama’s games against Texas A&M and LSU combined?  Certainly not anyone who doesn’t end their prayers with “War Damn Eagle!”  Speaking of a Higher Football Power, the last four Iron Bowl winners have gone on to win the BCS championship.

What it means for…
… the SEC: Everything, at least as far as the West is concerned.  It’s a winner-take-all battle, with the victor staking its claim to the divisional title and a spot in the conference championship game against either Missouri or South Carolina.  The Tide would earn a share of the divisional title even with a loss, although, obviously, the head-to-head tiebreaker would go to the Tigers with a win.
… the BCS: An Alabama win keeps the No. 1 Tide on its year-long inside track for one of the two spots in the BCS title game.  Even with a loss, Alabama would be a near-shoe-in for an at-large berth in a BCS bowl, although that wouldn’t be clarified until after the conference championship game.  The same could be said for Auburn, which would get serious consideration for an at-large bid despite an Iron Bowl loss.
… the Heisman: Thanks to the missteps of others in Week 13, AJ McCarron has suddenly vaulted into the No. 2 position behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston in the eyes of both the voters and the oddsmakers.  A strong performance on a national stage would most certainly keep the Tide quarterback toward the top of the conversation and, depending on how the Winston off-field situation plays out, could send him hurtling toward front-runner status.

No. 2 Florida State at Florida
To say that the Sunshine State rivalry has lost some luster for this year’s game would be an understatement.  While Florida State is more than holding up its end of the bargain — nationally-ranked and seemingly predestined for a shot at the crystal — Florida enters the game armed with an embattled head coach and a six-game losing streak that’s the program’s worst since 1979.  The Gators won last year in Tallahassee, although the Seminoles are four-touchdown favorites this year in The Swamp.  While his boss continues to back him, Will Muschamp directing an embarrassing blowout loss in Gainesville could force Jeremy Foley to reconsider that very strident public support.

What it means for…
… the ACC/SEC: Literally nothing for either conference.  FSU has already locked up the Atlantic division’s spot in the ACC championship game, while UF was long ago eliminated from SEC East contention.
… the BCS: For a team that’s outscored its opponents 402-65 the past seven games, this game would appear to be nothing more than a worn-down speed bump on its inexorable march to the BCS title game.  Seemingly the only thing standing between the Seminoles and an early-January date in the Rose Bowl is a win over the Gators as well as an ACC championship game in which they will be prohibitive favorites regardless of which team comes out of the Coastal.
… the Heisman: For Jameis Winston, the Heisman is his for the taking — provided he doesn’t trip over himself the next two weeks and, more importantly, the investigation into an alleged sexual assault doesn’t give him bigger things to worry about than a fumbled trophy.

No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan
Michigan has stumbled through a disappointing season with a 7-4 record that could easily be sub-.500 were it not for a couple of escapes against vastly inferior opponents.  At the other end of the spectrum is Ohio State, riding a nation’s best 23-game winning streak.  In fact, the Buckeyes set a school record last weekend, surpassing the 22-game streak of the 1967-69 squads.  The team that snapped the previous mark?  The 7-2 Wolverines in Ann Arbor, of course.  When it comes to The Game, you just never ever know  — especially when a heavy home underdog is involved.

What it means for…
… the Big Ten: As is the case for the game above this one, absolutely nothing.  Not only have the Buckeyes already clinched the Leaders division, they also already know they will face Legends winner Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game next weekend in Indianapolis.  Thanks to NCAA sanctions last year, OSU will be making its first-ever appearance in the conference title game.
… the BCS: If Ohio State has any shot at a BCS title, they have to hope either Alabama or Florida State loses once the next two weekends.  Outside of the crystal title game, they could also earn an automatic BCS bowl bid with two more wins, or perhaps an at-large bid with a loss in the Big Ten title game.  Either way, their BCS future won’t be decided until next weekend, although it could certainly take a significant at-large hit with a loss this weekend.
… the Heisman: When it comes to the Buckeyes and stiff-armed talk, “what if” is certainly in play.  Braxton Miller entered the 2013 season as the Heisman front-runner, but an injury that cost him a pair of September games knocked him completely off the radar.  Thanks to the stumbles of others, the quarterback is back on at least the periphery of the discussion, although it would take something monumental to once again make the junior a serious contender.  Perhaps Carlos Hyde, he of the three-game suspension to start the year, could make a late push?  Doubtful, but, as the last couple of weeks have shown, anything is possible when it comes to the most prestigious award in college football.

No. 6 Clemson at No. 10 South Carolina
Stated simply, South Carolina has owned this rivalry of late with wins each of the past four years, with none coming by less than 10 points.  Steve Spurrier has Dabo Swinney‘s number and is not shy about letting people know about it, which is part and parcel of why this is such a tremendous non-conference rivalry.

What it means for…
… the ACC/SEC: Clemson’s chances at an Atlantic division title went down in flames in the midst of a 37-point beatdown at the hands of Florida State in mid-October.  If Missouri loses to Texas A&M, South Carolina will represent the East in the SEC championship game.
… the BCS: The Gamecocks’ lone opportunity for a BCS bowl rests in securing the SEC’s automatic bid via a conference championship.  If Florida State does indeed make the BCS title game, the Tigers are primed to replace the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl and insert the 70-33 jokes here.
… the Heisman: You would think that Tajh Boyd would be in the thick of the Heisman conversation.  The Clemson quarterback’s not, and I don’t have a clue as to why.

No. 25 Notre Dame at No. 8 Stanford
While it’s hardly on par with Notre Dame-USC, Notre Dame-Stanford has evolved into quite the entertaining rivalry the past several years.  Of the past nine games played, six have been decided by eight points or less.  The Irish own a 6-3 edge during that span, including an overtime win in South Bend last season en route to the BCS championship game.

What it means for…
… the Pac-12: The North division’s game of hot potato continued — and ultimately ended — last week thanks to Oregon’s lopsided loss to Arizona, handing the division title and a spot in the conference title game to Stanford.  The Cardinal will (likely) travel a week later to South winner Arizona State for a game that will decide the league’s automatic BCS berth.  If the Sun Devils lose to the same Wildcats that dumped the Ducks, the Cardinal would play host.
… the BCS: The Irish have no chance to move into the top-14 of the final BCS rankings necessary to qualify them for an at-large BCS bid.  If the Cardinal entertain any hope of qualifying for a fourth straight BCS bowl, they will need to win the conference; a third loss, whether it be this week or next, would effectively eliminate them from at-large contention.

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 5 Missouri
One year after Texas A&M exploded onto the SEC scene in wildly-entertaining fashion, the Aggies have been reduced to playing the role of spoiler to a fellow former Big 12 member.  Playing the role of 2012 A&M is Missouri, which enters Week 14 with something the Aggies of a year ago didn’t: an opportunity to claim its first SEC divisional crown.

What it means for…
… the SEC: The conference scenario for Mizzou is very simple and straightforward.  Win, and the Tigers are in the SEC championship game as the East’s representative.  Lose and they’re out, replaced by South Carolina.
… the BCS: With three losses on their current résumé, there’s no need to use “A&M” and “BCS bowl” in the same sentence, unless it’s separated by “won’t be in a.”  Just as it was for its conference scenario, Mizzou’s BCS dreams are very simple and straightforward: win this weekend… win next weekend… and they’re in as the SEC’s automatic bid.  Lose at any point the next two weeks, and the Tigers will (very likely) be sitting outside the BCS window looking in.
… the Heisman: Johnny Manziel made significant repeat strides in the eyes of those who passionately follow the Heisman the last several weeks before a damaging performance against LSU seemingly knocked him out of contention.  Of course, based on how the stiff-armed landscape has drastically shifted the past couple of weeks, a resurgent performance against a high-quality opponent could put the reigning Heisman winner right back in the conversation.

Texas Tech at Texas
No. 9 Baylor at TCU
The most interesting aspect of this pair of games is how Baylor responds to an embarrassing and devastating loss.  In firm control of the Big 12 race entering Week 13 and with a BCS title game appearance a possibility, the Bears’ loss to Oklahoma State all but ruined what was a once-promising season.  A loss to the Cowboys the previous week, oddly enough, also cost Texas control of its own destiny in the conference.

What it means for…
… the Big 12: Here are the scenarios for each of the one-loss teams currently tied atop the Big 12 standings and what they need to happen to claim the conference crown.

  • Oklahoma State: a win over Oklahoma in Bedlam Dec. 7 coming off a bye week, regardless of what Baylor or Texas do and based on head-to-head wins over both.
  • Baylor: an OSU loss, plus wins over TCU and Texas.
  • Texas: an OSU loss, plus wins over Texas Tech and Baylor.

… the BCS: For both Baylor and Texas, their BCS bowl odds are long.  Each needs an Oklahoma State loss in order to claim the Big 12’s automatic berth as neither will be in play for an at-large bid, although there’s an asterisk when it comes to that absolute –there are a couple of scenarios that could get BU in as an at-large, although they are longshots at best and pipe dreams at worst.

No. 24 Duke at North Carolina
Will the shoe fit, or will the clock strike midnight on Duke’s Cinderella season?  The Blue Devils are in the midst of a historic campaign, with nine wins tying the school record set in 1941 and the opportunity to reach double digits for the first time since the program began playing football back in 1922.  They’ve qualified for a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever.  Simply put, Duke is one of the best stories of the 2013 season.  Whether the Blue Devils cap their fairy-tale story with a divisional crown remains to be seen.

What it means for…
… the ACC: If Duke beats North Carolina, which has won five straight after beginning the season 1-5, the Blue Devils will stake their claim to their first-ever ACC Coastal title.  If not?  A five-way tie between Duke (5-2), Virginia Tech (4-3), Miami (4-3), Georgia Tech (5-3) and North Carolina (4-3) is a possibility, although only the first four remain alive in the divisional race.  So, if Duke loses and all Coastal hell breaks loose, here’s what each team would need in order to secure the spot as Florida State’s sacrificial lamb in the ACC championship game.

  • Duke: a win over North Carolina; cannot win the division with a loss.
  • Virginia Tech: a Duke loss, plus a win over Virginia.
  • Miami: a Duke loss, a Virginia Tech loss, plus a win over Pittsburgh.
  • Georgia Tech (ACC slate complete): a Duke loss, a Virginia Tech loss, a Miami loss.

… the BCS: Whichever team survives the Coastal chaos and represents the division in the division in the ACC championship technically has an opportunity to secure an automatic BCS bid.  Realistically, none of the four teams with a chance to win the Coastal has any type of shot at upsetting the Seminoles in Charlotte.

USF at No. 19 UCF
How little respect does UCF get?  The Knights, whose lone loss on the season came by three points to No. 10 South Carolina, are ranked by the coaches three spots behind a one-loss Louisville team that UCF beat on the road.  Obviously the lack of respect for the AAC as a whole is playing a significant role, but it doesn’t change the fact that George O’Leary‘s squad deserves better treatment in the polls than what they’ve been getting.

What it means for…
… the AAC: A win by UCF pushes its conference record to 7-0 and clinches the AAC regardless of what the Knights do a week later against SMU.  Louisville’s conference title hopes remain alive but on life support, with the Cardinals needing two UCF losses as well as a win of their own Dec. 5 at Cincinnati.
… the BCS: The AAC receives an automatic BCS bid, so a conference crown for UCF also means a guaranteed spot at the BCS table, with the chair likely coming in the Sugar Bowl against an SEC foe.

No. 16 Fresno State at San Jose State
This game is all about the scenarios and possibilities, which appear below.

What it means for…
… the MWC: Fresno State has already clinched the West and will represent that division in the MWC championship game.  The Bulldogs will face Utah State for the league title if the Aggies beat Wyoming Saturday, Boise State — based on the head-to-head tiebreaker with USU — if the Broncos beat New Mexico and the Aggies lose.
… the BCS: If Fresno State can win out, they will battle Northern Illinois for what should be the lone BCS bowl berth for a non-automatic qualifying conference member.  In order for a non-AQ to qualify for an at-large bid, it needs to finish in the top-16 of the final BCS rankings and ahead of the lowest-ranked AQ conference winner (No. 19 UCF in this case); the Huskies leapfrogged the Bulldogs in last week’s rankings and are now at No. 14, while Fresno sits at No. 16.  Whichever of those two teams finish ranked higher in the final BCS standings, provided it’s in the top-16 and ahead of (presumably) UCF, will grab the non-AQ berth and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
… the Heisman: Derek Carr is one of the most prolific passers in the country, ranking first in total offense and passing touchdowns and second in passing yards.  Up until this week, however, he’s barely been a part of the Heisman discussion.  Thanks to the shortcomings of others he’s now in the mix, although it should never have taken others tripping up for that to happen.

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‘Disappointed’ Dykes had no choice but to can Cal assistant

California v Northwestern Getty Images

A week or so after being forced to push one assistant off his Cal coaching staff, Sonny Dykes spoke publicly about the situation.

The Bears head coach acknowledged that he was “disappointed and surprised” after learning that Pierre Ingram was arrested April 16 and charged with solicitation of a lewd act in the midst of a prostitution sting.  Eight days after his arrest, Ingram, who served as Cal’s wide receivers coach as well as the football program’s recruiting coordinator, was dismissed by Dykes.

Dykes stated that, in essence, he had no choice but to can his assistant, even as it was a hard situation to go through on both sides.

“It’s hard when somebody you know goes through a hard time in their life, especially somebody that you know well,” Dykes said.

“Obviously, it’s not anything you ever want to hear. I was disappointed and surprised. I think everybody was surprised that knew Pierre, but we had to move on.”

Ingram had spent the past two seasons as the Bears’ running backs coach before moving over to receivers this offseason.

As far as a replacement goes, Dykes stated that the search is ongoing but is headed in the right direction. There is no timeline for a hire.

Dykes added he’s unsure if the title of recruiting coordinator will go to the new assistant or to someone already on his staff.

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Spinal condition forces Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt to retire

Colorado Buffaloes vs Oregon State Beavers

For the second time in less than a month, a spinal condition has prompted a Power Five player to call it quits.

In a midweek Instagram posting, Oregon State’s Dashon Hunt announced that he is being forced to retire from the sport because of a medical condition.  According to Hunt, and which was subsequently confirmed by OSU, he was born with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine.  It’s a condition similar to what prompted Florida’s Rod Johnson to step away from the game three weeks ago.

Below is Hunt’s social media missive.

“It was truly a blessing to have been apart of the #OregonStateFootball team but sadly my days of playing is over due to a condition that I was born with called #SpinalStenosis. This team will forever be my team and I will always support every single brother of mine on it through their football careers and life. And a message to all my teammates “just because I can’t play on the field with yall, best believe I’ma be on the sideline helping and watching yall strive towards greatness because our team is bound for great accomplishments in these upcoming years. I love all yall as my own brothers and I’ll always be here for every last one of yall” And to everyone else who has supported me throughout my career thank you very much from the bottom of my heart and God Bless you all!”

Hunt was a four-star member of the Beavers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 corner in the country by Rivals.com.  He was the highest-rated recruit in an OSU class that was rated 39th in the country and eight in the Pac-12.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Hunt played in seven games in 2014.  He was expected to compete for a starting job in 2015.

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Nearly 30 percent of early entries weren’t selected in NFL draft

B.J. Catalon, Darrion Richardson AP

Not surprisingly, some of the players who left eligibility on the table for an early shot at the pros were left without a chair when the draft music stopped Saturday.

By the deadline in mid-January, a total of 84 players with eligibility remaining filled out their paperwork to make themselves available for the 2015 NFL draft.  As noted by Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, 24 of those 84 players went undrafted as the seven-round event concluded yesterday evening.

While that’s 28.6 percent, it’s actually a better rate than a year ago.  In 2014, 36.7 percent (36 of 98) of the early entrants went undrafted.  That total of 98 last year was a record number of draft-eligible players who left with eligibility remaining, which prompted the NFL to change its protocol in an attempt to roll back the number of players leaving early.

Getting back to this year, 16 of the 24 who weren’t selected came from Power Five football programs.  TCU was the only school with two early entrants who weren’t picked (running back B.J. Catalon, safety Chris Hackett), while two of the players came from non-FCS levels.

It should be noted that most if not all of the players in this group will sign as an undrafted free agent.

Below is the complete list of those who went undrafted.

SS Durell Eskridge, Syracuse
CB Jacoby Glenn, UCF
FS Chris Hackett, TCU
WR DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
RB Trey Williams, Texas A&M
DE Deion Barnes, Penn State
TE Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
DT David Irving, Iowa State
WR Deontay Greenberry, Houston
DT Ellis McCarthy, UCLA
RB B.J. Catalon, TCU
WR Chris Harper, California
LB Max Flores, Northern Colorado
RB Dee Hart, Colorado State
RB Braylon Heard, Kentucky
WR George Farmer, USC
WR Nigel King, Kansas
OT Patrick Miller, Auburn
WR Zach D’Orazio, Akron
WR Tacoi Sumler, Appalachian State
OG Tyler Moore, Florida
WR Jaquel Pitts, Trinity International
LS Easton Wahlstrom, Arizona State
OLB Darien Rankin, North Carolina

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Ex-Gopher, Rutgers QB Philip Nelson to start over at S. Alabama

Philip Nelson AP

Whether or not you are of the belief that he deserves it, Philip Nelson is getting a second chance at an FBS playing career.

According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report from late this past week, Nelson’s father has confirmed that his son has moved on to South Alabama and will play for the Sun Belt program in 2015.  For what it’s worth, USA has yet to confirm the quarterback’s addition to its roster.

When it does, though, it may have some explaining and/or spinning to do.

In May of last year, Nelson, then a Rutgers Scarlet Knight, was arrested in connection to a vicious assault outside of a Mankato, Minn., bar. Nelson was ultimately charged with first- and third-degree assault, both felonies, in an incident that left the victim, former Div. II football player Isaac Kolstad, hospitalized and fighting for his life.

The Kolstad family had released a statement at one point a year ago confirming that the 24-year-old Kolstad, who is married and has a young daughter, was on life support and had a portion of his brain removed after allegedly being kicked in the head by Nelson and punched by another male who is facing charges as well.  Kolstad, who Nelson’s attorney had accused of throwing a sucker punch that triggered the fight, is making steady progress from his injuries.

Nelson ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges earlier this year and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and credited for serving two days in jail.  It was concluded by a prosecution witness that the other male charged had caused Kolstad’s brain injury, which led to a plea agreement that also included a $300 fine.

In January of last year, Nelson transferred from Minnesota to Rutgers.  He was dismissed by the Scarlet Knights shortly after being charged in connection to the beating.

In 2012 and 2013, Nelson, who was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2012 recruiting class, started 16 games.  Nine of those starts came as a true sophomore in a 2013 season in which he led the run-heavy Gophers in passing yards (1,306) and passing touchdowns (nine).  He was also third in rushing yards (364) and rushing touchdowns (six).

Prior to moving on to USA, Fresno State, Georgia and Ole Miss were in the mix for his services.  Nj.com wrote that “the SEC schools moved on as the legal process dragged.”

Nelson will now have two years of eligibility remaining.

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Auburn dismisses Elijah Daniel following theft arrest

South Carolina v Auburn

Just days after being arrested for suspected theft, Elijah Daniel has been asked to leave the Auburn football program. Auburn announced the latest roster decision Saturday.

As previously reported, Daniel was one of three suspects in a theft investigation on campus. Daniel and two other former Auburn athletes — DeNorris James and Khalil Sellers — were the primary suspects in an on-campus theft investigation following various incidents over Auburn’s spring break. Daniel was charged with four counts of theft of property and four counts of burglary. Between the eight charges, six are considered felonies.

Daniel played in 13 games for the Tigers last fall, and he started in two of them.

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UAB gets two players drafted by NFL teams

2015 NFL Scouting Combine

For just the third time in program history, UAB has sent two players through the NFL Draft. It might end up being the last time UAB hears the school’s name mentioned during the NFL Draft.

UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the draft. In the sixth round, tight end Kennard Backman was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. The only other years UAB has had multiple draft picks in the same year are 2002 (Eddie Freeman and Bryan Thomas) and 1998 (Dainon Sidney and Izell Reese).

UAB made the decision to shut down the football program at the conclusion of last football season. The football program, despite being eligible for postseason play, did not play in any postseason bowl game. In the meantime, criticism of the handling of the shutdown and questions about why the program was shut down or if it had to be shutdown have continued. One report has suggested the program was financially viable.

We do not know whether or not UAB football will make a return. The earliest it was believed to be possible was 2016, and Conference USA has decided to close the door on UAB’s membership moving forward. Things look bleak, which is why moments like the NFL Draft should be cherished by those closely associated to the UAB football family.

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NFL Draft sees SEC take conference crown, FSU & L’Ville go 1-2

Florida State v Louisville

If there was one thing to be learned from this year’s NFL Draft, it is that the schools in the south are loaded with NFL talent. Big surprise, right?

After a bit fo a slow start, the SEC finished strong and sent more players to the NFL Draft than any other conference. By the time the last pick was made, the SEC had sent 54 players to NFL franchises, seven more than the ACC’s 47 players, even though Tennessee was blanked.

Here is how the power conferences stacked up:

The ACC was carried in a big way by Florida State, which set a new three-year record for most cumulative draft picks in the later rounds. Florida State had 11 players go to NFL teams in this year’s draft, including Jameis Winston as the number one overall player. While Florida State flexed plenty of draft muscle, Louisville had a big final day of the draft and ended just one pick shy of Florida State’s 11 players. Clearly Charlie Strong was able to transform the Louisville football program with plenty of talent before leaving for Texas. Hopefully he remembers their names.

Here is a look at the top draft factories this year:

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Tennessee blanked in NFL Draft for first time since 1964

Derek Dooley

The 2015 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and for the first time since 1964 there was not a single player from the Tennessee Volunteers selected.

The lack of draft picks is the product of a program that had been trending downward under former head coach Derek Dooley. Despite his enthusiasm for the game, Dooley was not able to keep Tennessee chugging along as a power in the SEC and the talent coming in just was not up to par with Tennessee teams of the past.

The good news is things are already starting to trend upward for Tennessee. Butch Jones has sparked some new life in Knoxville and the roster should be loaded in 2015. Tennessee going two years without a draft pick is very unlikely.

Vanderbilt was also without a draft pick this year, but a pair of FCS programs in the state of Tennessee did not go without a pick. Tennessee State had two players drafted (offensive linemen Anthony Morris and Robert Myers). Tennessee Chatanooga had outside linebacker Davis Tull go in the fifth round.

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Pac-12 moves up in spring game attendance, B1G & SEC stay on top

Ohio State Spring Game Getty Images

The Pac-12 took advantage of a late Oregon spring game to slip past the ACC and Big 12 in the 2015 spring game attendance figures, but there was no catching te Big Ten and SEC this year.

The Big Ten locked up the top conference-wide spring game attendance in 2015 on the strength of Ohio State’s new national record for spring game attendance and perennial strong spring game crowds at Nebraska and Penn State and a surprisingly strong showing at Michigan. Big stadiums leave plenty of room for big spring crowds, and that worked in the Big Ten’s favor.

The SEC finished in second place this year in spring game attendance, although it should be noted the SEC should easily pass the Big Ten next year if Texas A&M holds a spring game in the renovated Kyle Field.

The Pac-12 moved past the ACC and Big 12 once Oregon packed in 35,808 fans for the spring game in Eugene. Oregon was easily the biggest spring draw in the Pac-12, flying past the 22,788 fans that attended the USC spring game.

Here is how the conferences stacked up in spring game attendance for 2015 (Source):

1. Big Ten: 410,943

2. SEC: 408,566

3. Pac-12: 118,691

4. Big 12: 113,339

5. ACC: 101,832

6. American: 39,848

7. Conference USA: 39,724

8. Mountain West: 29,447

9. MAC: 15,617

10. Sun Belt: 14,534

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Florida State sets new NFL Draft record for total draft picks

Nick O'Leary

Florida State has had 10 players selected in this year’s NFL Draft, putting the Seminoles in a tie for the most players drafted over a three-year period. One more Nole off the board and the record will be Florida State’s.

The record is 28 players drafted over three years. Florida State now shared the record with Miami (2002-2004) and USC (2008-2010). Florida State moved into the now three-way tie when tight end Nick O’Leary was taken by the Buffalo Bills (who have been loading up on ACC players this draft). O’Leary was taken by the Bills in the sixth round and the 194th pick overall. The Bills had already drafted cornerback Ronald Darby in the second round and running back Karlos Williams in the fifth round. Other Noles to be drafted include quarterback Jameis Winston (the number one overall pick), defensive tackles Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman, center Cameron Erving, offensive guard Tre’ Jackson, receiver Rashad Greene, and cornerback P.J. Williams.

Time is running out for Florida State to set the record, but it is within sight. Offensive guards Josue Matias and Bobby Hart are still on the draft board.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m): The New York Giants drafted offensive lineman Bobby Hart, thus setting the new record.

 

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Navy long snapper is first Midshipman drafted in NFL Draft since 1995

Reese's Senior Bowl

This does not happen very often. The New England Patriots drafted Navy long snapper Joe Cardona in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in Chicago. Cardona is the first Navy football player to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1995.

Former Navy tight end Kevin Hickman was chosen in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. Offensive guard Mike Wahle was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 1998 supplemental draft. Players from the service academies being drafted is quite the rarity. The last player from Air Force to be drafted was defensive end Bryce Fisher in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. In 2008 Army saw defensive back Caleb Campbell go in the seventh round to the Lions. Campbell snapped a stretch that started in 1998 without an Army football player being selected in the NFL Draft.

It has been a big couple of weeks for Navy athletics. Just last week Navy lieutenant Mitch Harris made his major league debut as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.

UPDATE (3:57 p.m.): Navy notes Cardona is the first Naval Academy graduate to be drafted since Bob Kuberski in 1993.

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Clemson punter that declared early for NFL Draft gets drafted

Bradley Pinion

This is just a reminder that punters are people too. We may have poked fun at the idea a punter was declaring early for the NFL Draft, but we probably should not have. Clemson’s Bradley Pinion was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago by the San Francisco 49ers.

Pinion ranked 34th among FBS punters with an average punt distance of 42.59 yards per punt, but he was consistent and tested with 5.8 punts per game. As it turns out, whatever advice Pinion received regarding his draft position, it may have been pretty spot on considering the average draft position of punters in recent years. Only one punter drafted since 2008 has been drafted before the fifth round (California’s Bryan Anger went in round three to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2012 draft).

Pinion being drafted keeps a string going for punting specialists in the draft. A punter has been drafted in each of the past four drafts, including the 2015 edition, and in all but one draft since 1999.

It would be hard to imagine the 49ers drafting a quarterback with their former head coach, current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

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Ali Marpet puts D3 Hobart on the NFL Draft scoreboard

Ali Marpet

Schools like Florida State, USC, Miami, Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State will produce multiple NFL prospects on an annual basis. Hobart College will never be in that category, but the Division 3 football program in Geneva, New York has reason to celebrate this year. Offensive lineman Ali Marpet became the first player from the program to be drafted by an NFL franchise, and he is now the highest draft pick in the history of Division 3 football.

“I’ve said throughout this process, that whatever team drafts Ali is going to get an outstanding lineman who will learn and grow and have an outstanding NFL career,” Hobart Head Coach Mike Cragg said. “The Buccaneers got an exceptional young man who is going to do great things. I have no doubt about that.”

Marpet was picked up late in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday night by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joined by fellow second-round offensive line draftee Donovan Smith of Penn State, the two picks are expected to move right into the starting offensive line to provide protection for the new franchise quarterback, Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Few were aware of Marpet for much of the fall, which is pretty much the norm for players from the lower divisions of college football, but he received an invitation to the Senior Bowl. The opportunity to play in the Senior Bowl in front of NFL coaches and scouts all week paid off in a big way. He later took advantage of an appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he continued to impress NFL folks.

Since 1990, a total of 19 players have been drafted by the NFL out of Division 3 according to D3Football.com. That list has included players like wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts from Mount Union, a D3 juggernaut.

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Marcus Mariota’s successor at Oregon will not be named today

Jeff Lockie

The Oregon Ducks, defending Pac-12 champions and College Football Playoff contender, will wrap up the spring practice schedule today in Autzen Stadium with the annual spring game (with some nice uniforms). Just days after seeing former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota be selected with the second overall pick by the Tennessee Titans, the question of who will ultimately replace Mariota in Eugene will be one popular question for head coach Mark Helfrich today. It also will not be likely to be answered definitively, which makes sense.

Earlier this week Helfrich joined his Pac-12 coaching fraternity for a spring conference call with the media. Asked about the quarterback situation, Helfrich said there is no timetable for when a decision will be made.

“I think ideally you are making that decision a week and a half before the first game,” Helfrich said, per The Oregonian. “The way you ramp up and build through fall camp, we are installing and doing different things. You want to put each of them in the best position to compete and play to their strengths. They you have a week and a half to prepare for that first game, that would be an ideal situation.”

The candidates to replace Mariota as Oregon’s next starting quarterback are Jeff Lockie, Taylor Alie, Morgan Mahalak, Travis Jonsen (he changed his name)and Ty Griffin right now, but FCS transfer Vernon Adams from Eastern Washington will join the program later this summer. Lockie and Adams are widely considered to be the top two candidates in the running, and Adams will get his chance to make his case once he arrives this summer.

As is the case at many college football programs in the spring, the quarterback question may have to wait. Lockie could put together by far the best spring performance today, but until Adams gets his chance to prove what he can do, Helfrich is wise to hold off on any decisions until much closer to the start of the season. This will be the first time Helfrich will be charged with naming a starting quarterback as well after taking over the program following Chip Kelly left for the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is currently attempting to build the Pac-12 All-Stars through the draft and offseason roster moves.

Helfrich inherited Mariota as his starter, so now Helrich gets to choose his quarterback.

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SEC McGriddles, are you lovin’ it?

Protesters Put Pressure On Fast Food Restaurants To Not Use Meat With Inappropriate Antibiotics Getty Images

Sometimes when you are on the road in the morning you might get a craving for a quick stop at McDonald’s for an egg McMuffin with sausage. We’ve al been there, right? If you happen to live in the SEC footprint, McDonalds locations areadvertising the sausage, egg and cheese McGriddle as the SEC McGiddle.

Charles Bloom, Senior Associate Athletics Director at University of South Carolina, caught a McDonald’s message board advertising the SEC McGriddle, and shared the image on his Instagram account.

SEC McGriddles

McDonald’s usually imprints the top of the McGriddle with the McDonald’s arches. Replacing that with something that would imprint any SEC logo would be pretty simple, so why has that not happened yet?

Also, what could a B1G McGriddle be? Bacon would seem obvious. Good luck with the “1” and the “G.”

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